Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: The Wonder Years (Chapter 11)

I entitled this chapter the wonder years. Not because these years evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era but because most of the time I "wondered" what the heck I was doing in this relationship during these years. So after four months of radio silence the next nine months followed with nothing but cyber-communication, which in 1998 simply meant emailing back and forth (I was too chicken to call). Not to go off on a tangent but where was Facebook when I was in my early 20's? I mean if I had the ability to post perfectly photo-shopped pictures of myself, show off the vast number of "friends" I have, and could manage my "public persona" with pithy comments and my "self-image" via witty status updates, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have captured Kim's heart in....say two years as opposed to three. No doubt.

Well, it was now May 1998. Kim was about to graduate from college and head back home. The problem was I knew Kim didn't have access to email at home. This was a problem. If something didn't change I was headed towards putting Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" on repeat in my CD player. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a visit up to campus . I had two younger sisters (Lydia and Esther) going to school there and so it was the perfect "cover" for a visit. Coincidentally, they were both rooming with Kim that year and they knew we'd make the perfect couple. And so with a little prodding (and a modest financial incentive) they agreed to trick...I mean convince Kim to head out to a local state park and hang out with us (along with Lydia's boyfriend Ken)  for the day. It was a good time. We had a barbecue, flew kites and explored some of the wooded trails. Later that night, after dropping off my youngest sister, the four of us went to a place called Orchard Downs and sang songs, shared and prayed together. It was a beautiful night and I remember shooting stars lit up the sky everywhere. It was the first time we had "hung out" in nearly a year and it seemed so right. Things finally seemed like they might be moving in the right direction.

When I got back home I was eager to get the photos from my camera developed. (for those of you under the age of 30 - a little history lesson: before the invention of digital cameras, we old folks used to have to carry around these large black boxes and crank a handle to capture images and send them to a lab for processing. Therefore turning around pictures could take days especially if you weren't lucky enough to live near a Pony Express.)  Anyways, below is a nice pic that Ken (Lydia's eventual husband) took of the rest of us at the park.

As you can see since Kim rejected me a year earlier I'm still in that awkward "Hmmm...I'd like to stand a little closer but I don't want to make her feel uncomfortable, so how about I just lean in a little so I don't look like I'm in another zip code" stage. I tried to play it cool by nonchalantly holding that can of "sodie pop" but as you can see I wasn't fooling anyone. Meanwhile Kim has her left elbow at a right angle ready to jab it into my ribs if I dare take one step closer. You might notice that she also has her right foot pointed upward in the "attack position" ready to administer a swift kick should I try anything shady. This defensive and yet defiant position is akin to a pitbull growling and showing her teeth. Trust me I know. I had this photo psychoanalyzed by some of the most renowned non-verbal communication experts in the country and this is what their 40 page report told me.

Now here is a picture that Kim took of me and my sisters when we were hiking one of the wooded trails.

I kid you not. This is the actual unedited photo of the picture Kim took. Now if the girl of your dreams took a picture of you and your sisters and you were to find THIS. What would you think? Would you cut your losses and run? Or would you press on in faith? I mean, if a picture is worth a thousand words then this photo basically says: "Go away!" five hundred times.

Despite the disturbing picture, I mustered up enough courage to call her on the phone and we began talking again shortly after that campus visit. And then not a month later it happened. The moment I was waiting for. Her church (Calvary) was having a summer retreat in July and she asked me to come up for it. She made it clear that she still saw us as "just friends" but how could I not see this as a big step in the right direction? I mean she obviously wanted to parade me around as her personal "trophy" - like a hunk of meat on display - and honestly, I was okay with that.

So the retreat was held over the 4th of July weekend and let me just say it was a long weekend. The entire three days I could sense Kim was distancing herself from me and we rarely even talked. I could count on one hand the number of times we had a conversation. On top of this, no one else really made any effort to get to know me. In fact, I began to sense that all of the guys at the retreat (who were well aware that Kim had invited me) looked at me with great suspicion, they gave me the could shoulder and treated me like a pariah. Later, I would find out that most of the guys there were after Kim themselves and so they saw me as a threat to their "pursuit of happiness".

I remember making the long five hour drive from Chicago back to St. Louis more confused than ever before asking myself the same questions over and over again.
"Why would she invite me to a retreat and then ignore me?"
"What am I supposed to do next with this relationship?"
"Why does the Incredible Hulk turn green when he gets angry?"
I'm sure many of you have asked yourselves those exact same questions when you pursued the love of your life. Thankfully, despite all the mixed messages and conflicting signs, I decided to press on in faith. That said, there is a fine line between faith and stupidity and Lord knows I have crossed that line many a times. If there is one movie scene that could sum up the faith (or stupidity) I had on that long drive home it would be this one:

Things were still not looking good but I was willing to place all my faith in a God of miracles and that one chance in a million. And at that moment in time, that was good enough for me...


  1. can not wait to hear the rest...

  2. So funny! Kim, I need to know if you meant to take the picture of Peter and his sisters like that?? Way to play hard to get!!

  3. This one made me laugh out loud! Too funny.

  4. pastor peter youre taking too long!!

    1. Sorry Grace. I had to wait three years so y'all can wait at least three months...all part of feeling my pain. =)

      p.s. No "Pastor" before Peter. That was just for that retreat remember?

  5. hahahahahha! I remember these days. Kim rocks. Peter, you never cease to crack me up.

  6. That picture is SO hilarious! I, too, would like to know Kim's thoughts on that one...

  7. Just catching up with your blog now. I'm still on pins and needles. Screenplay adaptation?

    1. Juan, you know all the right people. Make it happen! Just make sure Brad Pitt plays yours truly. =)